A veggie activist dreams up what he believes is an innovative strategy to unite vegans, vegetarians and even people just reducing their eating meat. Sorry — but no sale.
Obviously, animal well-being is a sensitive subject, one that polarizes most people about as quickly as discussions about politics and religion.
Those who camp on the vegetarian side of the fence see any and all aspects of livestock production as cruel and inhumane. Even photos as benign as cattle eating out of a feed bunk trigger a visceral reaction among self-proclaimed veggies that is often quite negative.
On the other side of the fence, of course, are many more people who see nothing wrong with raising livestock, butchering them, cooking the resulting meat and poultry products and enjoying animal foods as part of their daily diet.
Rarely — if ever — do those two camps agree on much of anything.
That doesn’t prevent the people who are convinced that meat is a four-letter word to keep dreaming up tactics that would somehow marginalize animal agriculture and curtail the consumption of animal foods.
One recent example is the attempt to define another non-meat-eating niche: "Reducetarianism."
You read that right.
The idea is gaining some visibility — if not serious traction — among self-proclaimed veganistas, including one Brian Kateman, writing on the Quartz website (www.qz.com). He described a protest inside a Chipotle restaurant (he was eating a veggie burrito, of course) who were holding up “images of tortured factory-farmed animals, speaking confidently but quickly about their mistreatment and Chipotle’s culpability in supporting these cruel practices.”
Kateman noted that most diners were unamused by the disruption, and although he tried to portray his take on the demonstration as moderate and reasonable, it’s pretty clear he’s a born-again veggie by writing that, “I deeply admire the passion and bravery of vegans; few others are as committed to consistently exposing the cruel realties of the dairy, egg and meat industries.”
He added, “I overhead one young woman remark that the episode was just ‘one more reason to be thankful we’re not crazy vegans.’ ”
Right on, sister.
A change in tactics
So what’s a diehard vegan to do when even the “enlightened” folks who patronize Chipotle view anti-industry protestors as crazy people?
Start promoting reducetarianism.
Kateman noted it’s an “uphill battle” when it comes to making the vegan message palatable to a mainstream audience, which he defines as someone “who enjoys the occasional steak burrito”— as long as they don’t buy into Chipotle’s use of “oxymoronic and dishonest terms like ‘humane animal husbandry’ and ‘responsibly raised’ meat,” of course.
So the goal is to unite vegans, vegetarians and people who are eating less meat under one banner. Their reasoning is very few people are true vegetarians, much less vegans, and even those few who embrace such a lifestyle often modify or even abandon their hardcore rejection of animal foods at some point later in life.
Not to mention, which Kateman does, that the public perception of most vegans is not a favorable one: They’re rigid, dogmatic moralists more interested in condemning those who eat meat, rather than convincing then of the alternatives.
“We concluded that the animal rights community’s non-pluralist message of ‘go vegan’ is unrealistic,” he wrote, “and unnecessarily alienating for the vast majority of people who are (unfortunately) unwilling to completely eliminate animal products from their diets. The argument championed by vegan moralists — that a person is either a moral vegan or a murderous meat-lover — ends up hurting farmed animals more than it helps.”
You got that right.
“This preoccupation with increasing the number of vegans, rather than focusing on decreasing the total amount of meat consumed by our society may be the biggest failure of the animal liberation movement to date.”
Once again, spot on.
Even though he pleads with his fellow activists to “put down the megaphone” and embrace reducetarianism, it’s doubtful if Kateman’s message of tolerance, inclusiveness and reduction, rather than elimination, of animal foods will strike a chord with veggie activists.
He ends his appeal with this conclusion:
“At least there is one thing we can all agree on: eat. less. meat.”
“No. We. Won’t.”
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator.